VATICAN CITY — The Reformation anniversary gives us a renewed impetus to work for reconciliation, said a statement released jointly Tuesday by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Lutheran World Federation.
“We recognize that while the past cannot be changed, its influence upon us today can be transformed to become a stimulus for growing communion and a sign of hope for the world to overcome division and fragmentation,” it said Oct. 31.
“Again, it has become clear that what we have in common is far more than that which still divides us.”
The statement was released to mark the end of the year of common commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity is the Roman Curia’s office for ecumenism, while the Lutheran World Federation is the largest communion of Lutheran ecclesial communities. In the U.S., the Lutheran World Federation includes the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, but neither the Missouri nor Wisconsin Synods.
The common commemoration was opened last year with an ecumenical prayer service between Lutherans and Catholics at the Lutheran cathedral in Lund, Sweden, during the Pope’s Oct. 31-Nov. 1, 2016, visit.
During the service, Catholics and Lutherans read out five joint ecumenical commitments, including the commitment to always begin from a perspective of unity. Pope Francis and Munib Younan, then-president of the Lutheran World Federation and Lutheran bishop of Jordan and the Holy Land, also signed a joint statement.
Quoting the 2016 declaration between Pope Francis and Bishop Younan, this year’s statement acknowledged the pain of disunity, particularly that caused by the inability to share in the Eucharist.
“We acknowledge our joint pastoral responsibility to respond to the spiritual thirst and hunger of our people to be one in Christ. We long for this wound in the Body of Christ to be healed. This is the goal of our ecumenical endeavors, which we wish to advance, also by renewing our commitment to theological dialogue,” the statement declared.
The new statement also emphasized the commitment to continue this journey toward unity “guided by God’s Spirit … according to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
With God’s help, we hope to continue to seek “substantial consensus” on issues pertaining to the Church, Eucharist and ministry, it said. “With deep joy and gratitude, we trust ‘that he who has begun a good work in [us] will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.’”
They gave thanksgiving for the spiritual and theological gifts received through the Reformation, as well as the need to ask forgiveness for failures and the ways in which “Christians have wounded the Body of Christ and offended each other” over the past 500 years.
One positive effect of the past year’s common commemoration has been viewing the Reformation with an ecumenical perspective for the first time, it concluded.
“In the face of so many blessings along the way, we raise our hearts in praise of the Triune God for the mercy we receive.”